Temperature in Delhi nears record 50C as India reels under crushing heatwave

Indian capital sees highest temperature ever of 49.9C while Sindh in neighbouring Pakistan records 52C

Stuti Mishra
Asia Climate Correspondent
Thursday 30 May 2024 04:28
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Roads melt in India heatwave

Daytime temperatures soared to nearly 50 degrees Celsius in Delhi as India’s capital continued to grapple with an extreme heatwave that has also affected turnout in the ongoing national election.

The city’s main weather station at Safdarjung recorded a temperature of 45.8C on Tuesday while the outskirts of Mungeshpur and Narela reported 49.9C.

Najafgarh, Pitampura and Pusa sizzled at around 49.8C.

These are the highest temperatures ever recorded in Delhi and are nine degrees above normal for this time of the year.

In neighbouring Pakistan, temperatures rose above 52C in the southern Sindh province this week, the highest this summer and close to the country’s record high.

South Asia has been reeling under intense heatwaves this year along with the rest of Asia.

REP-CLI INDIA-CALOR-FOTOGALERIA
REP-CLI INDIA-CALOR-FOTOGALERIA (AP)
REP-CLI INDIA-CALOR-FOTOGALERIA
REP-CLI INDIA-CALOR-FOTOGALERIA (AP)

Although summers have always been gruelling in India with mercury often rising above 40C in northern and central regions, they have grown hotter in recent years.

This summer, much of northern and western India – including the states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh that surround Delhi – has been under a “red alert” as temperatures have stayed consistently high.

A red alert implies a “very high likelihood” of people developing “heat illness and heat stroke”, and calls for “extreme care” for vulnerable people, according to the India Meteorological Department.

In spite of record temperatures and voters complaining of heat stress, however, India’s election commission has pushed ahead with polling and turnout has slightly dropped compared to the last election five years ago.

The election ends on 1 June after seven phases of polling spread over six weeks. The results are due on 4 June.

India Hot Weather Photo Gallery
India Hot Weather Photo Gallery (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Hot winds flowing in from the desert state of Rajasthan have been blamed for increasing the heat in Delhi in recent days. However, experts pointed out that the capital city’s urban sprawl and lack of green spaces were responsible as well.

“In open areas with vacant land, there is increased radiation. Direct sunlight and lack of shade make these regions exceptionally hot,” Mahesh Palawat, vice president of Meteorology and Climate Change at Skymet Weather, told The Business Standard newspaper.

Delhi’s local government also restricted the supply of water because of the heat. It said water levels in the Yamuna River, the main source, were low.

The city does not have uninterrupted water supply at any time but the Delhi government said neighbourhoods that received water for about hours two times a day would be subject to further restrictions.

“I appeal to all the residents that whether there is a water problem in your area or not, please use water very carefully,” water minister Atishi, who uses only one name, said on Tuesday.

While some Indians can afford to use air conditioners and water coolers to beat the heat, half of the country’s workforce is compelled to work outside with little to not respite throughout the day.

India has recorded five deaths due to suspected heat stroke so far, but experts said the actual number could be far higher.

In spite of all this, the issue of extreme weather and climate crisis have barely featured in the ongoing election campaign.

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